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Lindsey Graham has transformed from a ‘RINO’ to an icon of the right

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GettyImages WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (C) leaves a secure meeting space inside the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center after reviewing the FBI report about alleged sexual assaults by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh October 04, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh's confirmation process was halted for less than a week so that FBI investigators could look into allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Somodevilla/Getty Images


  • South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is campaigning for
    Republicans on a 12-state tour at the request of President
    Donald Trump.
  • Graham’s status has been elevated since he vigorously
    defended Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh his the
    tumultuous confirmation hearings.
  • Campaigning against Democratic colleagues is a first
    for Graham, who has typically stayed on the sidelines during
    election cycles.

“He knows Lindsey Graham,” quipped a woman to her friend after
meeting Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul during a
campaign event
last week for Senate candidate Patrick
Morrisey in St. Mary’s, West Virginia.

Katie Arrington, a GOP candidate for a US House seat in South
Carolina,
called the South Carolina senator
 “the voice of the
Republican Party” upon introducing him at her own rally on
Sunday.

During the first two years of the Trump administration and
increasingly over the past few months, Graham has become one of
the most popular Republicans among the GOP base in the current
political climate, shedding his reputation as a “RINO,” a term
used by far-right conservatives to denote that a party member is
a “Republican In Name Only.”

Graham has stayed close with President Donald Trump, despite the
two having regular public fights in the early days of the 2016
presidential campaign season, which culminated in Trump reading
Graham’s personal cell phone number on live television.

Graham and Trump now play golf together on a regular basis. The
president has in the past called
Graham right after he appeared on television to tell him he
did great.” Now, Graham is embarking on a 12-state tour to
boost Republican campaigns on behalf of the Republican National
Committee and at Trump’s request.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called Graham “a key ally in
confirming Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court” in announcing
the multi-state swing to stump for Republicans.

Graham’s stature rose after the Brett Kavanaugh
hearings

To call Graham a key ally would be an understatement. Graham
dramatically
altered the narrative
and tone of the Kavanaugh confirmation
hearings by becoming the first Republican senator to drop the
outside counsel brought in to probe Kavanaugh, then an embattled
nominee whose confirmation hanged by a thread.

When Republicans convened for their conference meeting after the
Kavanaugh hearing concluded, Graham received a standing ovation
from his GOP colleagues. Multiple senators
told Business Insider
that Graham’s performance had fired the
up and changed the overall tone.

And the praise echoed from the smallest circles in Graham’s home
state all the way to other foes, like conservative talk radio
host Rush Limbaugh.

“Lindsey was the hero of the Republican Party yesterday and
of conservatives everywhere,” Rick Tate, a South Carolina GOP
chairman in Pickens County, told the
Charleston Post and Courier
.

“Conservatives will not forget Lindsey standing up for Kavanaugh
yesterday,” Tate added. “It will be in the minds of conservatives
as long as Lindsey is in public office. It will be one of the
hallmarks of his career.”

Limbaugh
suggested
 that Graham has changed his personality since
the death of John McCain, his friend and fellow Republican
senator.

“I will say that since McCain has passed away, Lindsey Graham
seems more like the guy I knew back in the nineties,” Limbaugh
said on October 9. “That’s all I’ll say.”

‘I’ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That’s
about to change’

And Graham’s tour, during which he will serve as the GOP’s
campaign pit bull, is a major break in tradition for him after 15
years in the Senate. 

“I’ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That’s
about to change,” Graham said on Fox News Sunday
earlier this month. “I’m going to go throughout this country and
let people in these purple states, red states, where Trump won
know what I thought, know what I think about this process.”

Several of the states on Graham’s 12-state tour include red
states where his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are facing
tough re-election battles, such as Florida, Missouri, Indiana,
Montana, and Ohio. Notably not on the list is West Virginia, home
to Joe Manchin, the only Democratic senator to vote for
Kavanaugh.

Manchin is dealing with his own race where other lawmakers,
officials, and conservative personalities are swinging through to
assist in unseating him, though limited polling in the state
suggests he is maintaining a healthy lead. Still, Manchin said he
does not like the idea of colleagues gunning for one another
during campaign season.

“I’ve never campaigned against a Republican in the center, I’ve
never given money to a Democrat that’s running against a
Republican in the Senate for incumbents,” he told Business
Insider. “I don’t think it should be done. I used to hear that’s
the way it was done before. It’s an unwritten rule — you
don’t do that.”

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